Commentary regarding Houston Rockets, NBA team, 12-02-11

Are you there Google, it's me, Xiane and I wrote that headline just for you. Welcome new reader!

I just can't quit you, NBA. I'm back, as you knew I would be, slinking around sports sites, checking my timeline, commenting on posts. I feel so shamed, so manipulated, and yet I'm definitely up for some hot trade action. The Rockets don't even have to be involved.

That begs the questions - should the Rockets be involved in trade activity? Do the Rockets need a trade? How about a free agent signing? Are we doomed? Find out what I think regarding these questions after the JUMP...

1. Should the Rockets be involved in trade activity? The short answer, sure, why not? The Rockets have made many trades over the past few seasons, bringing in lots of young, intriguing players. Here are a few (that remain with the team): Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Terrence Williams, Courtney Lee, Hasheem Thabeet, Goran Dragic, Jordan Hill, Jonny Flynn, Luis Scola. Donatas Motiejunas also came via trade. I think we bought the pick that allowed us to draft Chase Budinger. They've also nabbed draft picks along the way. That seems to be a lot of trades to me.

So when you find yourself saying "The Rockets never trade for anyone! Wah!" please check yourself. The Rockets make lots and lots of trades. They've drafted and traded for a simply staggering number of interesting players with honest-to-God tremendous upside potential. And what have they sent away for all this? Aaron Brooks (currently laboring for a Chinese penal institution basketball team), Shane Battier, the corpse of Tracy McGrady and Carl Landry, basically. We could actually re-sign both Battier and Landry should the stars so align.

But I know what you mean, of course. The Rockets haven't turned that formidable array of players into one shining star, never mind that we might not have even had the money to do so until last year, and maybe not even then. The problem is the trend. Players pick a city that appears to offer the fast and furious lifestyle they want, and decide that they will meet there and form a super team. (Which probably dooms Boston in the future just as much as Houston.)

So far the verdict remains out on the concept. Miami got to the finals, but they couldn't defeat one ailing German and his motley pals. New York? Snort. As long as James Dolan owns the Knicks and continues to think Isaiah Thomas was a good hire, I'll remain skeptical of their chances. The Lakers remain that overpaying Evil Empire ($90+ million in commited salary for 2011-12) and the weather is very nice indeed. The Purple and Yellow Death Star will float above the western horizon until further notice.

Eventually I think the new CBA will play out against the "Superfriends" teams, as 25 other owners stated fairly strongly, and crafted a deal, so that their purpose in life isn't to lose money and fill in the schedule for 5 super teams. But, again, we'll see. Deals often shake out very differently than they were envisioned. The CBA before this one was touted as an owners win, yet there were the owners using one of management's nastier control tactics, the lockout, until quite recently.

For now, the "Superfriends" are all the rage, despite the fact that the Knicks have next to nothing left to trade New Orleans after the Carmelo Anthony deal. That probably means that the Rockets aren't going to be involved in dealings for Chris Paul, and likely not Dwight Howard either. Neither player is actually a free agent by the way, so expect more of the tedious drama that surrounded The Carmelite Ascension last season to persist well into this one.

2. Well, that was a long way to go to say "Expect the Expected" when it comes to trades, what about Free Agents?

Now you're talking. What do the Rockets need, 1, 2, 3 all together now... A CENTER! (No points for guessing it.) Interestingly enough there are several usable centers on the market. While I think that Hasheem Thabeet remains an intriguing tall guy, we need a center. There are several to consider: Nene Hilario, Tyson Chandler, Samuel Dalembert, DeAndre Jordan. These players have been well covered in other excellent posts so I'll just say this - I'd take any of them. We likely won't get Jordan, as the Clippers can match any offer on their restricted free agent, but they are the Clippers, so you never know. Tyson Chandler will be a Maverick again. Cuban will spend the money, pay the tax, for a shot at another ring. So that leaves Dalembert and Nene. I think Nene is the more well rounded player, but we honestly don't need much, if any, offense from the spot, so if its a max type deal for Nene or a much smaller deal for Dalembert, please give me Dalembert.

A couple of other names to consider - Greg Oden, and Joel Przybilla. If Przy is healthy and moving ok now, he'd be a nice defensive center for little money. He's better on D than you think, his roasting at the hands of Yao excepted. And Greg Oden, well, someone is going to sign him. It's probably Portland. And he's probably never going to be healthy, but if, if... No, we've suffered enough.

I also think we should bring back Chuck Hayes. He's a FA too, you know.

3. Are the Rockets doomed? Should they tank for a top pick?

I don't think the Rockets are doomed, and I think tanking might be difficult if the current roster develops according to reasonable projections. But of course Kevin McHale is at the controls, and that really could mean anything. Young players sometimes take a step back before breaking through, and that could happen as well.

We might see our young team get lots of playing time and yet find ourselves picking in the top 3. We might make a deep playoff run as a deep, talented, Rocket team simply grinds down opponents with their pace and athleticism. Either outcome seems possible. 8th or 9th in the West seems less likely somehow, as I think the distribution of outcome will be towards the high end or the low. But that's not based on 10,000 simulations, just on what I think about this group of players.

Adding a real center almost guarantees us a playoff spot, in my opinion. Failing to add one, and Thabeet and Hill and The Other Cousin failing to deliver (and no Chuck Hayes to step in) could put us far into the lottery. Given the weird way the season will unfold, there probably isn't a better year to do it. This year's draft class is shaping up to be far far better than last year's. ( It's not only getting that pick, it's getting that pick in the right draft. And then being lucky again on top of it. You could get Tim Duncan, you could get Greg Oden.)

But doomed? Doomed such that we should set forth to tank? No. Just because our players haven't been anointed the future of the NBA doesn't mean they aren't capable of great play. Young teams sometimes learn a lot, and lose a lot, so that could happen as well, and the tankers will get their wish. i know that's not at all definitive, but it seems equally weighted to me, with perhaps a little more weight to the upside.

I can't argue with the moves Morey and company have made. If no one is buying what you're selling, and the Superfriends model holds sway, I just don't see another way forward than this one. I refuse to call it hopeless until our young team actually gets some playing time. For all those who are sick of low lottery finishes, I honestly think this team either finishes well into or well out of, the playoffs.

Mainly though, I want to see some basketball, specifically, Rockets basketball.

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